The 39 Steps: use of performance space

The 39 Steps: use of performance space

Set Design and Use of Performance Space

  • “The 39 Steps” uses a minimalistic set design to tell an expansive story, making great use of performance space. The simple stage may consist of a frame of a proscenium or a box stage, with the focus on the actions and interactions of the characters rather than physical sets.
  • The performance makes extensive use of invisible barriers or “fourth wall”, symbolising both physical locations (like a window or a door) and abstract ideas (like a confidential conversation). This requires precise spatial awareness from the performers.
  • “The 39 Steps” exemplifies the importance of understanding the geometry of the space - stage depth, width, and height - and how it can be utilised effectively in performance. By designing actions and staging carefully, it is possible to create the illusion of a much bigger world on a minimalistic set.

Role Play and Movement Coordination

  • The play makes use of multi-role play, where actors take on multiple characters. This requires meticulous blocking and movement coordination on stage. Actors need to switch between roles quickly and efficiently in a compact space.
  • There are also clear lanes of travel, called “theatrical bi-lanes,” that allow performers to move and interact within the space while maintaining the audience’s focus and sightlines.

Props, Sound, and Lighting

  • The creative use of props further maximises the performance space. Objects like ladder, chairs or clothing pieces are transformed into various set pieces - like a car or an airplane - within the compact stage space.
  • Lighting and sound also play a key part in defining the stage space. These elements aid scene transitions and create different atmospheres, effectively transforming the setting from a train carriage in one scene to a desolate moorland in another.

Physical Theatre

  • Physical theatre elements also come into play, underlining the idea that the human body itself is a powerful performance space. The creative and exaggerated body movements and gestures of the actors bring drama and humor to the scenes.

In conclusion, “The 39 Steps” presents an excellent study in using limited performance space to its maximum potential through clever direction, multi-role play, creative use of props, and other theatrical elements.